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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Saturday night’s matchup versus the Florida Panthers at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is the Islanders 19th game of the season and their second under their new interim head coach Jack Capuano. After making his NHL debut on Wednesday, Capuano knows his second game behind the bench will present challenges.

“(The Panthers) are a quick team and transition well on defense,” Capuano said. “I watched the game last night against Boston. They’re well coached with Peter DeBoer there. So as far as what they do, we really need to generate offense and play solid defensive zone coverage.”

To help with the Islanders system, Capuano has made small changes in the past few days.

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders faces off against Marty Reasoner #19 of the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on October 23, 2010 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
“We have simplified some things,” said Islanders center John Tavares about the changes. “I know as forwards, the system is designed to have us mostly read and react, so we aren’t thinking too much. Once we get in the offensive zone, we just have to be creative and do what we do best. I think the changes should benefit us, especially with the short time that we’ve had with Jack (Capuano) here, trying to make things more straight forward.”

After watching video of the Islanders last game, Capuano also noticed that the players haven’t been releasing the puck off of their stick quick enough and fail to get solid scoring chances, noting that other players around the National Hockey League release the puck with better reaction time. Instead, the Islanders have been giving their opponents’ defense and goaltender enough time to get into position to block shots.

“The last few days have been really upbeat,” Tavares said. “A lot of the drills we’ve been doing have been trying to push our pace. Obviously we’ve been working on some system work, so it’s been good preparation and we’re looking for a big win tomorrow.”

But Tavares knows the Panthers aren’t going to be an easy matchup and he said playing with intensity for 60 minutes and putting pucks to the net, the Islanders should have an opportunity for a win.

“They’re a team that always finds ways to win,” Tavares said. “They have great goaltending on the team. They play a pretty simple system but they work hard at it and they can frustrate you at times so we have to make sure we’re ready that our battle level is as high as theirs and if we are able to get the opportunities like we did last game, we should be in pretty good position to get back on track.”

The Islanders first loss of their current 11 game winless streak was delivered by the Panthers in a 4-3 decision on Oct. 23. Perhaps a win on Saturday night might inspire future victories.
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